While in Maui, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to combine two activities into one incredible experience — whale watching from an outrigger canoe! If you're lucky enough to be visiting Maui during the months of November through May (with January – March being the peak time for whale watching), this is an activity not to be missed! We chose Hawaiian Paddle Sports for our morning adventure on the water, and hoped for good weather despite the lousy forecast and gray skies.
We arrived at Poolenalena Beach, the meeting point for my fellow whale watchers and I, at 7am as the sunrise had turned the sky pink.
Our guide arrived and proceeded to hand us our life jackets and paddles, collecting our non waterproof electronics and any other items we wanted to be protected, while also telling us a bit about the company. We learned that each month, Hawaiian Paddle Sports contributes to a Non-Profit service project; March’s was for the Maui Youth and Family Services.
The water was rough, and many snorkeling tours and other water based activities had been cancelled due to wind and waves. Our guide explained that it might be difficult getting over the large, crashing waves, but he felt it was safe enough if we were willing/wanted to give it a shot. My fellow paddlers and I definitely wanted to give it our best (the outrigger canoe holds a total of 6 people — 5 clients plus the professional guide)!
After a brief demonstration of the proper paddling technique, and familiarizing us with the Hawaiian commands used in paddling, we dragged the canoe closer to the water's edge. There was a bit of a lull in the waves, and that's when we pushed it all the way in, jumped in, and started paddling like crazy to make it past the breakwater. It looked like we were going to be lucky and make it out there easier than we had anticipated…until a large wave formed and was heading right for us! We dug in hard, and went up and over a split second before the wave broke with a crash. Despite getting a face full of water, we were all smiles and ready to find some whales!
In total, we spent about 90 mins out on the water. We spotted whales quite quickly, and they were so close! To be in this small canoe, in rough water, with whales far larger than our canoe, was exhilarating to say the least. The mama and baby calf were quite playful and enjoyable to watch. At one point, one of the whales even swam right under our outrigger canoe! I can’t even express just how cool it was to be seeing the whales just so close to us… with no one around! There wasn't one boat or snorkel tour in sight. It was us and the whales, and that’s pretty remarkable.
It started raining as we were paddling in, before turning into a torrential downpour soon after we got to shore. All in all, our outrigger canoe whale-watching experience was memorable to say the least!